Friday, February 19, 2016

Creating Inclusive Playgrounds for All Ages and Abilities

The Problem

A senior who uses a wheelchair, asked me if I knew of any inclusive playgrounds   in NYC. I asked her to define inclusive. She said a playground  that had activities for someone like her who used a wheelchair,  rather then a place where she could just sit and look.   I could only think of 2 parks in NYC  that would offer her any activities, both  were quite a distance from where she lived. Yes she could go to them , but given the inconvenience of getting to them I doubt she would.

On Further thinking I came up with  a lot of closer "playgrounds" that might  have activities to meet her needs
-the libraries in her neighborhood
-the senior centers in her neighborhood
-the college in her neighborhood that offer senior scholar programs.
-going to a church or synagogue in her neighborhood
-Attending community board meetings
-visiting with friends 

So there are a larger number of locations  offering  "playgrounds" for people with disabilities .in her neighborhood,  only they  are  not  NYC parks.

People with disabilities are not the only group who do not feel parks are offering them activities of interest...

 Overall this is a great facility I just wish the community would use it for more activities other than the one concert in the park they have every summer because that's pretty much the only reason why I've ever gone herelink

"The natural environment of a park is not enough to attract some elderly users,"   link

 Contemporary American playgrounds don’t hold or inspire older kids...More and more, preteens avoid the playground altogether, choosing instead to spend time indoors, most likely sitting in front of some kind of screen...What teen will go to the playground to play a game when he has better graphics at home on his computer or anywhere on his cell phone? The Science of Play

The Solution

"You must create an environment that is conducive to use ..." link

You go to various "stores" in your neighborhood to buy goods and services

the pizza store for pizza
the dry cleaner for dry cleaning
the art supply store for paint
the drug store for drug
sthe doctor for health exams
 the library for books (you are "buying" books there , it's just that the cost is zero)

What our neighborhood parks are "selling" is the use of some active recreation equipment for young kids and a place to sit outdoors for adults.

If you're an adult and  don't want to "buy" a place to sit outdoors then you will not use a park.

What features or activities  would a park need to" sell " so  that you would want to "buy" from  it on a regular basis?

If a "park" offers enough features/activities   that you wish to "spend your time" on doing in it , then it  is an inclusive park for you, if not it isn't. Doesn't matter if 1 or  10,000 other people find activities  at that park that  they "buy" there,, if it doesn't sell what you want , it fails your  inclusion test.

An INCLUSIVE park should include some activities  of interest to everyone no matter what their age or abilities , and the fixed equipment only model of building inclusive playgrounds , is hard pressed to do  that. There is another model of park design that can do this., I call it a Loose Park and its created by adding a  play library of inclusive recreation equipment  to a park.    Inclusive Play Libraries are discussed here at  The Theory of Loose Parks.